The Byrds “Sanctuary I-IV”

When it comes to the major rock bands of the sixties, The Byrds are maybe the most divisive in terms of modern day respect. I’ve read arguments claiming their sound is long past dated, or they were only able to survive because of Bobby Dylan’s songwriting. At the same time I’ve often heard of their revolutionary style and long spread and lasting influence.

The best records often sink in gradually, the sound slowly nestling into the corners of your mind, and the Byrds were never quick to grab me. It’s Sundazed’s Sanctuary collection that’s turned me all the way around, the beauty of the Byrds now ringing in full, clear, vinyl glory. Hearing these alternate takes and unreleased cuts set in album format is like hearing the Byrds for the first time. A fresh take that I might even recommend to complete Byrd n00bs.

Sanctuary I
Outtakes from the first Byrds sessions at Columbia Studio A for the albums Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn Turn Turn, and 5D. There’s something about hearing the hits from those albums that can turn you off from a thorough listen. Songs that have been friends with the radio since the sixties can have the effect of a television commercial to dedicated album explorers. Loaded with unissued tracks, Sanctuary avoids this issue altogether. My standout track from the first LP is the first version of the B Side from the Turn! Turn! Turn! single, She Don’t Care About Time. Truth is, I’m a sucker for absolutely anything by Gene Clark.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“She Don’t Care About Time”

Sanctuary II
From Younger Than Yesterday, Notorious Byrd Brothers, and Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde.  Sanctuary II is comprised of alternating instrumental and outtake tracks. It’s fantastic to hear the backing tracks, a la the Beach Boys’ Stack-O-Tracks, but not so many that it overwhelms the release. Several pieces showcase Roger McGuinn’s work with the Moog. This is the sound of the Byrds at their most unique and interesting stage, I’ll take any recording I can get my hands on.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“This Wheel’s On Fire”

Sanctuary III
This is my favorite of the series. Things had changed by the time the Byrds were recording their Ballad of Easy Rider and Untitled LPs (Roger McGuinn was the only remaining original member), but the full time commitment of Clarence White’s guitar for these sessions elevates the group to a whole nother level. It’s told that CW turned down a gig with the Burrito Brothers to be a Byrd, and to my ears some of the tracks on Sanctuary III may be among his best recordings, wrangling wild new sounds from his B-Bender throughout. The alternate mix of Ballad of Easy Rider to open this one is positively sparkling and I can’t get enough of Build It Up, a CW instrumental track inspired by Buck Owens’ Bakersfield sound.

For more on Clarence White, don’t miss an amazing series of posts at Adios Lounge.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Build It Up”

Sanctuary IV
Simply a must for Sweetheart devotees, Sanctuary IV puts a host of gems to vinyl from the sessions behind their most revered and uncharacteristic album. Any further glimpse into Gram Parsons’ foray with the Byrds is a must. Pretty Polly is fascinating to hear electrified, seamlessly fusing traditional country with Byrdsian folk rock. One Hundred Years From Now is excellent even at this lazy slow pace.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“One Hundred Years From Now”

:) 180 Gram Vinyl | get Sanctuary at Sundazed ]

Byrds. Love em or hate em? What’s better, Dylan originals or the Byrds’ covers?

Also Recommended


  • Great post and topic. I need to hear that Sweetheart disc, No. IV.

    To answer your first question, I love the Byrds. They certainly were an important band in the history of rock and their high points are very high. They have some low points too, but I don’t subtract points for failed attempts. Just count the positives, which are plenty and varied.

    On the second question I think the Byrds and Dylan were a great “team.” While I’m a huge Dylan fan too, I really like what the Byrds brought to his songs. Not always (or even usually) an “improvement,” but frequently an interesting twist. Favorite Byrds cover of Dylan is My Back Pages. So different and so good.

  • W

    Probably the greatest and most influential rock band of the ’60s, and perhaps ever.

  • EH

    I have to think W is being facetious!

    Just popping by to thank you for hipping me to the existence of these albums, and for providing the only reference I”ve ever come across of Stack-O-Tracks!

  • mark

    Was it Peter Fonda who, in the liner notes to The Ballad of Easy Rider, said, “whoever the Byrds are is just alright.”?
    I believe that they remain the epitome of American music – both in the 60’s and in general. They gave us all permission to become eclectic – to borrow and adapt freely. Throughout their many metamorphoses, they remain dedicated to their craft. Gene was the consummate craftsman. They brought rigor to most all of their work and yet, it never seemed to become an intellectual or abstract pursuit (– just listen to the RCA version of “8 Miles High”).
    They still seem as magical to me now as they were when I first heard them. Perhaps it was because of the tension within the group that seemed at times to be almost palpable.
    As for Dylan… he is clearly a part of the oral bardic tradition. His songs change with every performance. (There is a beautiful article in the May 1999 New Yorker magazine that explores this aspect of his music.) When the Byrds pick up a Dylan song, it becomes transformed… it becomes a Byrds song. Other groups never managed such alchemy (think Turtles for example). When I hear a Dylan recording (or live performance), i hear Dylan. When I listen to a recording of the Byrds doing a rendition of a Dylan authored song, I hear the Byrds. Each has their place. Very often the entire mood and sense of meaning changes as the song is deformed / transformed.
    –Many thanks!

  • dk

    The Byrds were not only quintessentially American and 60’s, they were also a great representative of the music coming out of Los Angeles during that era.

    It’s hard to deny the influence of their jangling sound. Tom Petty and the alt-country bands are just two places that their style has lived on.

    I’m not crazy about The Byrds’ Dylan covers. It’s one part of their catalogue, but I believe their influence would be just as strong if they’d never covered a single Bobby D tune.

    And finally, I’d like to put in a plug for their ‘Untitled’ album. It’s later in their catalogue, and not generally as well regarded as ‘Notorious Byrd Brothers’ or ‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’, but it’s my favorite Byrds album. The original double LP featured one live album and one studio album – the live, album-side length version of ‘8 Miles High’ is absolutely the definitive recording of that song.

    Love those Byrds…

  • mark

    I would have to disagree with your last comment. As wonderful as the Untitled album is (especially with the Unreleased tracks included on the more recent cd release), there is no definitive recording of 8 miles high. McGuinn’s version on Live From Mars is superlative as is that rate Gene Clark solo version, to say nothing of the RCA version (appearing as an outtake on 5D). Essentially, the song is exceptional and each performance / recording seems to make it only that much richer.

    Love those Byrds…

  • dan

    the byrds are


    alongside the beach boys in the 60s for american music definitely gave us a brilliant tune as we could ever want with their cover of mr tambourine man. also imo younger than yesterday is an underrated masterpiece. as a young musician, only about 14 nearly 15 years of age, i can say itll be an influence on me for years to come

  • Gene

    The best group to ever come out of your here United States.Effortlessly cool,eat sings and some early help from Buddy
    Were you aware of Joe Meek channeling Buddy’s spirits.

    Gene Clarke,the Shakespeare,no money,loads of taken and BOOOM…………………yer of…..

  • David Lerner

    Dylan originals or Byrd covers? Reminds me of a joke my friend Ian once told me:
    Q: Why are the Byrds such a good band?
    A: Because they set Bob Dylan songs to music

  • Jay

    Anybody who says their sound is outdated and that they only survived because of Dylan’s songwriting doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Leave a Comment